Evan Rachel Wood and Zane Carney’s Evan + Zane Take on Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer”

Evan Rachel Wood and Zane Carney have gone on scores of musical adventures together since 2018. Theyve embraced Disney songs, jazz, and psychedelia, and even covered music inspired by the color blue, rain, and most recently Halloween as Evan + Zane.

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A year after celebrating the release of their 2022 album Dream at the Chelsea Table + Stage in New York City, a restaurant and music venue that opened in 2017, the duo returned to the venue to take on Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer on November 5 and 6. Covering the album in its entirety at the two shows, OK Computer is an album they were both deeply connected with for years.

“I remember the first time I ever heard it,” Wood tells American Songwriter of OK Computer. “It was a very influential album in my life since I was a teenager, and we both have a deep love for Jonny Greenwood and the amazing guitar that he does as well. It still felt very timely.”

To Carney, who has also played with John Mayer and Avril Lavigne and was previously in the band Carney with his older brother actor Reeve Carney, Greenwood is one of four of his all-time favorite guitarists. “My Mount Rushmore of favorite guitarists would be number one—always and forever—Wes Montgomery and my other three are Jimmy Page and Django Reinhardt of the 1920s and ’30s jazz era.” 

He continues “[There’s] Montgomery’s improvisation, Django Reinhardt’s fiery passion, Jimmy Page’s attitude, and Johnny Greenwood’s part writing. I’m heavily influenced by all four of them, and I try to pay homage to them unconsciously whenever I’m performing.”

The first time the two covered OK Computer, with Wood singing and Carney on guitar, was during one of their first shows in Tokyo, Japan on September 24, 2018, shortly after they formed the Evan + Zane. “That was the first album that we did in its entirety,” added Wood. “It just felt like it just lined up with both of our tastes and skill sets.”

Outside of the watershed Radiohead release, they’ve only covered one other album in its entirety—Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough Jagged Little Pill. “I would say those are two perfect albums that not only just have good songs on them,” says Wood, “but the entire album is cohesive and tells a story and takes you on a journey, and that’s why we do the entire thing.”

An album-worth of songs fits the duo’s performances since their setlists are heavily story-driven and conceptualized. Once compiled, Carney takes the liberty of switching up arrangements or changing the chord progression of some songs based on the greater context of the story they want to tell. “The essence of the story might require me to put on this weird guitar panel to express an emotion,” says Carney, “so there’s free rein to personalize it harmonically as well as story-wise.”

Onstage, the duo’s connection is evident. Both instantly bonded more than 15 years ago when they first met in 2007. At the time, Wood was working on the Beatles-inspired film Across the Universe, and was urged by a friend to see the band Carney play live.

“I fell in love with them immediately,” said Wood, who was later cast as a circus lion tamer and fire breather in the band’s 2010 video for “Love Me Chase Me.” Coincidentally, Wood and Reeve Carney were also cast in U2’s Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark on Broadway—a role Wood later had to rescind. “I thought they were the best live bands I had ever seen live,” added Wood. She also instantly connected with Zane over everything from similar musical tastes to geeking out over Disney movies. “It’s always been my dream to do this weird, dark cabaret, Disney show,” says Wood, “and Zane was totally into the idea.” 

The Disney cabaret-themed show ended up being their second performance as Evan + Zane; their first was an anti-Valentine’s Day-themed set of songs. 

Prior to their first, official show as a duo, Wood, who was previously in the electro-pop duo Rebel and a Basketcase, performed with Carney at one of his solo shows when she got on stage to sing the Sound of Music classic “Edelweiss.” Along with Evan + Zane, Carney has also released three solo albums since his 2013 debut Confluence through Alter Ego in 2021.

Theatrical and cinematic, their finely curated cabaret-bent shows are also peppered in with some of the original songs they’ve written, including one Wood wrote for their Rain-themed show. Zane has contributed some of his songs to their Bird and Heartbreak-inspired performances. “Before a show look at each other at some point and go ‘We do this to ourselves,’” laughs Woods of the pressure they both put on themselves to make every performance completely unique from the last. “It also keeps it fresh on stage because we never really know what’s gonna happen.”

Carney adds “We take our sets very seriously. It’s the idea that this happened for those people in that special moment. That’s been the fun part of our band, that only 300 people may have experienced that one theme, that one time, and that’s something magical.”

For Wood and Carney, the future of Evan + Zane is boundless. In 2023, the two released a hypnotic cover of Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 classic “White Rabbit,” and another album will surely follow Dream. A collection of 10 songs inspired by dreams—including Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and a rendition of Doris Day’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me”—Dream was recorded live in one-take at Carney’s studio.

On November 7, the duo are also revisiting their Psychedelia setlist at a show in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In January 2024, they’ll also set 20 songs, pulled from their collection of themed shows throughout the years, to a 28-piece orchestra.

“This band has given me a lot of confidence in myself, and it’s given me an opportunity to sing so many different styles and artists and to be able to collaborate with a guitar player like Zane, who just completely takes things to a different universe,” shares Wood. “It’s not like we’re just going up there and covering songs. It really does feel like we’re taking off and doing something really special.”

She adds “Being in that space for the past six years, there’s no way it can’t make you a better artist, and I feel much more at ease on writing now.”

Feeding off one another, Carney says he’s always inspired watching Wood perform. “Evan is so great at embodying a song,” he says. “It’s not just ”Here I am singing.” She’s in the song, encapsulating all other person and she gives it to the audience. She’s not like keeping it to herself, so I feel like the next song [solo] I have coming out has unconsciously been inspired by that.”

Carney adds, “This band has been its own special thing, but it’s also given us a lot of inspiration for our solo projects.”

Photos: Kate Russell / Courtesy of Fortune Creative

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